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Young Antiguan Carrack Jones Breaks Sailing World Record in Epic 100-Mile Journey

Carack Jones set off for a 100-mile sail in a tiny 7-foot-long sailing dinghy. He was inspired by a similar feat performed by a young girl between St John and St Barth.

14-year-old sailor, Carack Jones

Zoē Carlton

There are a number of ways to travel the 100 miles from Antigua to Sint Maarten in the West Indies for the St Maarten Budget Marine Optimist Championship. Flying in comfort comes to mind. In a sailing boat, it is an overnight sail. But tackling the journey in the 7’ 9” Optimist dinghy, a boat typically reserved for junior sailors in more sheltered waters, is not the usual vessel for a long-distance voyage.

But 14-year-old Carrack Jones embarked on a world record-breaking attempt to sail his Optimist dinghy 100 miles from Antigua to Sint Maarten, just in time to enter the championship. He achieved that feat in 30 hours. Now, he is the record holder for the longest distance ever sailed, solo, unassisted in an Optimist single-handed sailing dinghy.

The Optimist dinghy is a stalwart in the world of youth sailing, a single-handed sailing boat designed specifically for young sailors. Despite its primary use as a training boat, the Optimist has gained global recognition in competitive youth sailing events, showcasing the versatility of this compact yet sturdy craft. The dinghy stands as a starting point for many sailors, fostering a love for the sport and laying the foundation for future maritime endeavours.

Carrack was inspired by 13-year-old Lolie Osswald who held the record of 80 NM Antigua to St Barths.  “She went 16 hours without sleeping, now I have to do 24!” Said Carrack before he set out, looking rather surprised at the huge interest his feat has garnered. Father Tanner Jones put his foot down last year, but relented; “he pushed it for a year, and finally I said OK.”   Carrack has made the journey before, but never in an Optimist and never alone.

Carrack is an experienced sailor, having competed in the last two Optimist World Championships. As the youngest skipper in Antigua Sailing Week in 2022 sailing Blue Peter (j30), he led his youthful team into second place.

The journey itself is a testament to the teenager’s determination and resilience. He knew the challenge he was facing; “the hardest part is going to be the pitch black and not being able to see anything…. I cannot sleep.”

Light winds made the early stages heavy going; the winds picked making progress easier as a huge fan club developed around the world, following almost minute by minute WhatsApp messages. Messages described him as “Mr Cool Dude!” Crowds were gathering in St Marten to welcome him hours before he was expected to arrive.

In Sint Maarten, Carrack now has one day to recover before transitioning into competitive mode for the championship. Choosing an Optimist dinghy, a vessel typically reserved for junior sailors in more sheltered waters, may seem unconventional for a long-distance voyage. However, this teenager sees beyond conventional norms, setting a challenge that not only tested his own limits but also inspired others to reach for the extraordinary. The young sailors at Antigua Yachting Club have been following his progress closely and the club has resounded to young cheering voices. Whatever the challenges he faced on this odyssey, one thing was certain, as coach Karl James said:” [Carrack] will never give up.”

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He didn’t! After almost 20 hours of light winds, an exhausted Carrack Jones stepped ashore as the World record holder of the longest distance sailed in an Optimist. 100 nautical miles in a 7’ boat!

Yet another record for Antigua.

The record for the longest crossing ever in an Optimist was previously set by 13-year-old Lolie Osswald who completed an 80-mile distance in 16 Hours, 34 minutes, and 30 seconds from Antigua to St Barts in June 2022.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Paul Brazier

    November 24, 2023 at 1:48 pm

    What a wonderful achievement by Carrack and a great example to his generation.

  2. Cyndi Gottschalk

    November 25, 2023 at 2:06 pm

    It’s wonderful to hear about kids sailing, much less accomplishments like this. We so often see kids playing with their electronic games. Our granddaughters would pull out their cell phones to play with while sailing with us.

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